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Shakespeare quote of the day? ... Really?

RobS

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Click image for larger version  Name:	Shakespeare quote.jpg Views:	0 Size:	32.7 KB ID:	1224046

Ah yes, that would be from his Comedy of Errors no doubt.

(Well, this is a vintage computer forum, isn't it?)
 

Eudimorphodon

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The real Shakespearean tragedy is the entire uncompressed works of the bard himself would occupy less than six megabytes of hard disk space, a pittance by today’s standards, but they elected to make this widget dependent on an Internet connection.
 

RobS

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The real Shakespearean tragedy is the entire uncompressed works of the bard himself would occupy less than six megabytes of hard disk space, a pittance by today’s standards, but they elected to make this widget dependent on an Internet connection.

I spent several years subscribing to a writing forum and a key skill impressed on novice fiction writers there was to impart the maximum amount of meaning using the minimum number of words. Brevity was the name of the bard.
 

Eudimorphodon

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I spent several years subscribing to a writing forum and a key skill impressed on novice fiction writers there was to impart the maximum amount of meaning using the minimum number of words. Brevity was the name of the bard.

Maybe, but also remember that "War and Peace", generally considered a notoriously large book, is only about 3MB, and the entirety of a standard English translation of the bible is around 4MB. Even the full text of the last print version of the Encyclopedia Britannica only weighed in at a couple hundred megabytes.

Or to put it another way, one medium-high-resolution photo of your cat taken with a modern cell phone technically has more information in it than William Shakespeare's entire life work.
 

RobS

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Or to put it another way, one medium-high-resolution photo of your cat taken with a modern cell phone technically has more information in it than William Shakespeare's entire life work.

Information or data? That is the question.
 

Timo W.

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Or to put it another way, one medium-high-resolution photo of your cat taken with a modern cell phone technically has more information in it than William Shakespeare's entire life work.
It doesn't. It only takes a few words - or sentences at most to fully describe what's on a picture, resulting in the same information. Pixels of a picture are mostly wasted and don't contain any important information at all. You could reduce the size of said photo to 1/20th and it would still show a indistinctive picture of your cat.
 

Eudimorphodon

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Information or data? That is the question.

Ask a quantum physicist and he’ll tell you there’s no distinction between the two so far as the universe is concerned. When they argue about the black hole “information paradox” the pixels in the cat photo of all reality is exactly what’s at stake.

And yes, that was the point I was making. Natural language as humans use it counts as a massively efficient (if lossy) compression algorithm. One that works so well that even late 80’s storage technology was up to the challenge of storing a life’s work in that format. And therefore it’s pretty silly to not just carry the whole of Shakespeare around with you, it probably consumes less space than the code and icon resources of the app they wrapped around a http get.
 

RobS

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Ask a quantum physicist and he’ll tell you there’s no distinction between the two so far as the universe is concerned. When they argue about the black hole “information paradox” the pixels in the cat photo of all reality is exactly what’s at stake..

"Truly, sir, all that I live by is with the awl." ( The cobbler in Julius Caesar Act 1 Scene 1)

Well, if we're talking about "awl" reality then a genuine Shakespeare quote for the day seems appropriate. I don't really understand much about quantum theory but the definition of information there appears to relate to information about the entity itself rather than its relationship to and hence portrayal of something else. The picture could just be a completely abstract image without the information that it was formed by light reflected from some physical object. The information that it is a photo of a cat is not contained in the image itself. Equally Shakespeare's pun on the word "awl" is not contained in the text itself but in our interpretation of it in relation to other knowledge. Photographic compression algorithms rely on an understanding of how we perceive the world with our eyes and equally sound compression algorithms use our interpretation of sounds similarly. The image is not a photo of a cat to an observer who knows nothing about cats and indeed may not even sense the image visually as we do. My distinction was between data, which only contains facts integral to itself, and information, which relates to other things in a wider context. Shakespeare's use of a pun makes the meaning ambiguous intentionally, leaving the observer to perceive the witticism of it. The witticism in my original post resulted from an observer realising that the text wasn't a Shakespeare quote at all but a statement about the absence of a Shakespeare quote, but that information wasn't in the post itself.

Gosh, humour can get pretty profound, can't it?
 

Eudimorphodon

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I don't really understand much about quantum theory but the definition of information there appears to relate to information about the entity itself rather than its relationship to and hence portrayal of something else. The picture could just be a completely abstract image without the information that it was formed by light reflected from some physical object. The information that it is a photo of a cat is not contained in the image itself.

Sure. And by extension even the highest resolution photograph of a cat is a completely inadequate representation of the actual cat, which contains a positively unimaginably huge amount of information stored in the arrangement of its atoms and the quantum states of the particles therein. The English word for "cat" occupies all of 24 zero-one bits information when expressed in ASCII. (We could get that down to as little as 15 bits if we switch to something like Baudot.) It'd be a bit of a challenge to create a meaningful visual representation of a cat in 24 monochrome pixels, so imagine trying to explain to a being that has no idea what a "cat" is if you were only allowed to use a data of such limited resolution. (Assuming you're missing the translation table to convert "Cat" directly into something in their natural language.) On the flip side, imagine encountering some Nth dimensional being that could somehow perceive every physical dimension/state of objects in our universe simultaneously and process that symbolically as if reading them off a page; to such a being 2D photograph or even 3D hologram would almost certainly be completely inadequate to express the physical reality of these things we call "cats". (*)

(*) It's interesting to ponder how such a being would categorize "cat" symbolically based on the practically infinite differences that would exist between individual cats. We don't even understand how humans do it with just the amount of variation our crude visual perception grants us access to; somehow even very young children can, after encountering just a few different examples, generalize the concept of "cat" and apply it fairly accurately, even to crude drawings. Maybe even this:
# #
#####
# # #
#####
###


It is 25 pixels, not 24, so I am cheating a little, and they would probably need some prompting to know they're looking for an "animal". Maybe an alien with sufficiently similar mental faculties to ours would also guess that icon is an animal, although that would no doubt depend a lot on what the fauna of their planet looks like. Making assumptions that aliens can makes such mental leaps certainly isn't a new thing:

View attachment ...jpg?attachauth=ANoY7cpkGUx2wlHqB1TGP9tgWGoCx1rI9pHNRG-IUPGSfh9kqf84PIqqJyOfeatiRTJhMWLvb-siwcFPbv

The image is not a photo of a cat to an observer who knows nothing about cats and indeed may not even sense the image visually as we do. My distinction was between data, which only contains facts integral to itself, and information, which relates to other things in a wider context.

Okay, but that doesn't negate my point about the amount of "information" a picture of a cat contains compared to the text representation. As I said, with just 15 bits worth of data because you and I share a common language I can transmit the word "cat" and upon reception you will know that I'm talking about "an animal of the 'feline' type". But there's a pretty huge amount of ambiguity there; I could be talking about a Persian kitten or a Bengal Tiger, and this would be very important information to know if the reason I'm telling you "cat" is I'm letting you know what awaits you on the other side of a solid steel hatch that you're about to be dropped through. At the very least you're going to require more context clues to make educated guesses about the attributes of this "cat"; does it live in a house or in a zoo? What color is this cat? What was it doing, exactly, at a given moment in time and space? What was the arrangement of its whiskers during this moment? Was it the exact moment the animal received its "cheezburger"? All of this "data" could be important "information" depending on the context.

I will grant it's more than a bit of a stretch to imagine someone being able to fill a 1,300 page book (typical print length of the Complete Works of Shakespeare) with an English description of even the most amazing photo of the most remarkable cat that ever existed without resorting to an unacceptable amount of filler and redundancy. (Although leave it up to some crazy person on the Internet to try.) But the fact that we consider most of the data we can gather with our senses about the universe "disposable" does not mean it's not information.

... Which I guess ultimately comes around to how amazing it is that a talented writer or bard can "say so much" and invoke such a wide range of internal experiences in the reader via what is in fact a ridiculously spare, lossy, and highly compressed data stream. How we take these symbols and translate them so readily into meaning is as astounding a miracle as nature has to offer.
 

RobS

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... Which I guess ultimately comes around to how amazing it is that a talented writer or bard can "say so much" and invoke such a wide range of internal experiences in the reader via what is in fact a ridiculously spare, lossy, and highly compressed data stream. How we take these symbols and translate them so readily into meaning is as astounding a miracle as nature has to offer.

I am very much with you there as I myself somehow wrote a novel back in 2011 and at least some of its few readers found it entertaining. This subsequently surprised me because a couple of years later research into a mental condition dubbed "aphantasia" was publicised and I recognised it as describing my own experiences. People with aphantasia are to a greater or lesser extent unable to visualise things in their mind's eye but somehow this doesn't necessarily significantly impair their ability to function within society. Given that I have this condition then how does my brain process a photo of a cat if I cannot consciously visualise a cat? How can I appreciate reading a play by Shakespeare when I cannot visualise any of the scenes in it? Most remarkably, how can I possibly write a novel which evokes convincing mental images in readers' minds, images which I myself may never see? I can write the statement "The cat sat on the mat," and mentally perceive this purely as a conceptual event but the reader with a normally functioning mind's eye will no doubt instantly embellish the scene with the type of cat and style of mat. They will also make an assumption about whether the cat was in the process of sitting or was immobile, having sat down some time earlier. It is evidently very true that a writer only guides readers towards forming their own images and the skill is in not allowing them to wander off entirely on their own flights of fantasy, losing track of the intended plot.

I never attempted to get my novel published because that clearly was never its purpose. I am still toying with the idea of presenting the entire details of the strange story of its creation on my other website MensTemporum.UK but that would delay the building of my Honeywell 200 replica even more, so the existing brief summary is all that currently exists there. Anyway, with quantum physicists creating complex models of a universe based entirely on information it may prove difficult for them to accommodate the idea of information filtering back to the present from the future.

And now we are far from a joke.
 
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